Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finally . . .

Finally a few things to share! Here's what's drying on the guest room floor. That's two big skeins - one each of Cormo, and Targhee, and two baby skeins of Targhee. I've been talking about them forever, and finally both are done.

As you can see, I finally finished up the next skein of Cormo. I wish I could say I finished up the last skein, but there is still MORE Cormo to spin. For now, though, I think I'm done with it. So frustrating to spin - I need a break from it. I also spun up another 4 oz. bump of Mountain Colors Targhee, and I finished plying it yesterday.

I love Targhee, and I can hardly believe how easy this was to spin compared to the Cormo I've been fighting with for months. I spun this second 4 oz. in less than a week. Wow! That's pretty fast for me. The colorway is Sandstone. I got this roving from The Loopy Ewe, and I have more it of it in another color! Yay! As for this color, from what I know of sandstone, it's pretty spot on. In this closeup I fiddled a bit with the color, contrast and brightness because it didn't come out very well in the initial photo. It's a little bright, but it's close.

One of the things I love about my Lendrum wheel is the plying (sometimes called Jumbo) head. Those are really big skeins of yarn in that first photo. I'll know the yardage after they dry. They were wound on a 2-yard niddy/noddy (and a 1-yard for the baby skeins), but when you finish and set the twist, the fibers often shrink up, particularly if they had a lot of crimp in the wool to begin with. And Targhee is like elastic. Did I mention I love this stuff? This photo is probably a little closer to the actual color of the wool and remember, it's still wet here.

Here is the Cormo. Looking a little more grey that the first two skeins - but, again, that's probably because it's still wet. It came from the same roving. You can see that I struggled with this roving. There's far more thick/thin and uneven spinning going on in this yarn than in the Targhee yarn. Still, the yarn itself, once it's dry, will likely be nice, and I will have probably around 600 or 700 yards total with still more to spin. I'm considering dying this yarn once I finally finish spinning it all up.

What's next? Well, I'm very excited that I will be attending The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling knitting retreat again in April 2009! And even better, I'm going to be teaching some beginning spinning there. I'm very excited about this and although I have a hard time thinking of myself as a spinning teacher since I'm still pretty new at it, my own teacher, PatsyZ assures me that I'm well-qualified to teach beginners. I hope she's right :-D

I finally finished these socks. The yarn is Farmhouse Yarn's Fannie's Fingering Weight - or as Knitterary calls it: Dirty Girl yarn . . . check her blog for the story there. ;-D I liked this yarn very much. I only wish it was superwash. The colorway is called Autumn, but it looks like Christmas to me. The closeup shot is a very good representation of the colors. This yarn also came from The Loopy Ewe (pretty much my favorite place to buy sock yarn :-) ). It's a plain old sock - strictly stockinette. I learned my lesson with the last variegated yarn. I did re-cast on for the Spring Forward socks with a yarn that is variegated, but the color changes are not so frequent, giving large bands of single colors, which actually do then show the stitchwork.

Having these socks off the needles leaves me with the never-ending Feather and Fan scarf, and St. Patrick (the Spring Forward socks are my current train project). I'm back down to three on the needles (not counting the alpaca sweater that's in knitting jail because I lost interest in it about a year ago . . . there's not that much left, I should just finish it.

I'm saving two wonderful fiber-related gifts I received for my next post. :-) I hope your holiday was a lovely as mine :-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Not Too Late . . .

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I hope you'll click the cow and give the gift of hope.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Hilarity . . .

A fine looking crew, wouldn't you say? I mean really - have you seen so many happy, shining faces in one place lately? It's my SnB crew. I don't get to see them all that often, but last night our hostesses, Dreamsweaver and KniftyRed gathered some of us together at the home of Dreamsweaver. Cookie-o-rama - and as you can see by the evidence on the table, I'm not kidding. A very funny gift exchange, and of course a really lot of knitting and laughing. I love these guys!!

In front, there's Knitterary, Dreamsweaver, blogless B, Biographica Kniteraria (whose blog seems to be MIA for the moment), Sticks N Mud, and KniftyRed. In back: blogless K, Tzurris (w/baby on board!) and TamaLamaDingDong :-)

Here are a few of them modeling their "Damn Tam" hats, doing their best impersonation of the Horta from the old Star Trek series. They all worked on these tams together - one knit-a-long that I was happy to miss, because apparently the Windmill Beret has some rather tricky bits, hence the name "Damn Tam." :-D However, you can see that all the fussing was worth it - they are beautiful hats - and KniftyRed even made TWO of them!

We did talk, however, a little about the St. Brigid knit-a-long. I'm more and more excited about this even though I have not yet finished my St. Patrick. (You would think I'm Catholic with all these saints flying around, wouldn't you? You would be wrong.) And just to show that indeed, I have finished something lately, here are the latest socks. Opal yarn (my old standby), for my cousin's daughter J. She got to pick this yarn out herself from a selection of my sock yarns. It's a little hard to tell because of the angle, but they are identical twin socks. Yay! I love it when that works out.

I got a LOT done last night on the last pair of socks on the needles. I blasted through the gusset and am on the straightaway of the foot, headed with great speed for the final turn into the toe and the finish line. Yay!! Then I'm working on St. Patrick and spinning through the end of the year. I have big projects waiting for me . . !

Happy Holidays to you all, wherever you may be.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice . . .

Well, I was hoping it would be a snow day for me. But my place of business is open. I'm not there, but they didn't close because of the weather. Of course, prolly not too many people are there, but whatever. The fact that they're open and I'm not there means that I will likely be charged for a day of leave today. I can't get there. The electric train I take every day is not running as far out as where I live. The lines are frozen from about 15 miles North of me to the end of the line South of me, and the roads are so bad that driving to get the train is really not an option.

It's beautiful, isn't it? But what a mess. I did put a fresh feeder full of bird seed up this morning because when it's frozen like this, they can't get anything to eat on the ground. The squirrels are quite wiley, but I've managed to stop them getting the feeder down or open - at least so far. Of course I had to put packing tape on the top so they couldn't open it . . . Right now there are sparrows and a Purple House Finch (which is actually red - go figure), but I've had a woodpecker, and multiple Cardinals, Chickadees, Juncos, Nuthatches and of course a bazillion sparrows all morning long. They've already eaten close to a quarter of what I put out for them.

We didn't get the snow that was predicted, but where I live we got sleet - a boatload of sleet - along with the ice. We had a thunderstorm this morning while I was out chipping away at the ice on the driveway. Yes, you read that right: a thunderstorm.

I'm out there, in my pajamas, boots, hat and coat, smacking away at the ice, and it was early - I mean it wasn't even light out yet - and all of a sudden, thunder and lightening - at which point it began to rain ice. It rained ice. I had to come back inside. I waited for it to stop, and then went back out and re-cleared the little path I made - I could hear the trees creaking and ice cracking and clacking as the wind picked up and stirred the branches.

I rang my cleaning lady and told her not to come, but she was already on her way, which means I have a very clean house - and she brought me a huge plate of amazing Polish cookies that are WAY way good (thus saving me from baking any . . . ;-) ). My friend who is visiting from Colorado can't get to the airport because we can't get a train to get into the city, and since IDOT has been begging people not to drive, she rescheduled her flight and we're staying put.

I'm happy to have a day at home - I'm not so happy that I have to use a day of leave for it, but oh well. At least I'm home and safe. :-)

Here's a shot of the path I was able to chip through the crap this morning. Just that took me about an hour and my hands hurt now from smacking the metal shovel down on the asphalt to break up the stuff to make just this path. I would have brightened up the photo, but the sun was not out. The sleet was about two inches deep. I couldn't break up any more of it, so my driveway is probably toast for the rest of the winter unless we have a warmup. At least as far as having it clear and not slippery.

Buy stock in rock salt.

I finished up some socks and have nearly finished the last pair that's on the needles. I picked up the yellow Feather and Fan Scarf and have been working on it again - and finally finished up and plied the next skein of Cormo! Have not finished it/set the twist yet, but will do that probably tomorrow, since I lay stuff like that to dry in my guest room, which is currently in use :-)

I walked today on my treadmill, and am about to relax and get some knitting done! Maybe some spinning!

I hope, wherever you are you are safe and warm - and if you're local and you have to drive, please be safe.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Windy Day in the Windy City . . .

Wonky weather here again - rained like MAD last night - all the snow is gone. I went into the city to meet one of my friends and catch Madama Butterfly at the Lyric. I had not seen this opera before. I only like Puccini, but this one, which so many love will not go down as one of my favorites in terms of the music (I love Turandot and Tosca and La Boheme - those are my favorites). The set, however, was magnificent, and there were even ninjas (the opera is set in Japan)!!! The set revolves and the ninjas do all the heavy lifting to get that to happen. It was very well done.

It's kinda warm - in the 50's, but the wind has not stopped, and we hear that we're in for a storm . . . we'll see what tonight brings.

So. Flexible Feet. My trip to Fleet Feet in Elmhurst yesterday morning was very very productive and information and all-around positive. I recommend them highly, and I recommend them even more after my walk this morning.

Apparently there's something to this "having the proper shoes and socks." I would not have believed it had I not just experienced it - the difference that having the right shoes and socks makes is nothing short of amazing, and, apparently, pretty much instant.

I was a little leery this morning, a little worried - I've been down this road twice now with shoes, but no pain, no aching knees after the walk, no feeling like I'm going to get another blister. OMG. These are my new shoes: they are called "Nirvana." I'm not kidding. That's their name, and they deserve it. They are made by Mizuno (I never even heard of them before!), and they are sitting on top of my other new pair, which are called "Hurricane" and are made by Saucony. I also got magical socks, a.k.a. Balega, and I love them. I love them. Did I mention that I love them?

I walked on a treadmill in my bare feet and they filmed me (from the rear - OMG it wasn't pretty - but thankfully it was mostly my feet and only a small portion of my ass and they promised me they would delete it immediately). And then they played back the film so I could see how I walk. The first words out of the mouth of the guy who helped me were, "you have very flexible feet." When he pointed out what my feet and body were doing as I was walking, I could absolutely see what he was talking about. I over pronate. No mention was made of flat feet ( I don't think my feet are flat), just that they are very flexible and need a more stable shoe.

I asked if walking in the wrong shoes could also cause my knees to ache - the answer was yes, first the knees, then the hips, then the lower back. It's all connected and it makes perfect sense to me. And after my walk this morning with my new shoes, and not hurting. I'm a believer.

So, Yay!! More new shoes. I'm the only woman I know who has more athletic shoes (and I'm not even an athlete) than dress shoes :-D

Saturday, December 13, 2008

News Flash . . .

. . . apparently, I have Flexible Feet.

Film at 11.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If It's not One Thing . . . It's Another

I mean, really. First it's bitter cold, then it's raining - and I mean raining - pond in the backyard raining - then it's cold again, but not quite so cold as before, then it snowed, then the Governor got arrested on federal corruption charges, then I got a blister on the side of the ball of my foot again. And out of all those things, the stupid blister has been the most on my mind because it hurts so dang much. Not even a very big blister, but a blister. In the most irritating spot that hurts with pretty much every step I take. Which means that today, I'm not doing my usual walk on the treadmill. Oh well.

I'm going to go to one of those specialized runner's stores (not that I run) and get fitted for the proper shoes because this is ridiculous. Every time I start to speed up my walking, I have foot issues.

And on the other - well we have no immediate control over the weather (but hey - can you say global warming?); however, we do have control over who we put into office. This governor has never been a favorite, but there it is - four of the last seven governors of this state were/are in prison. I hope he resigns - and I hope the Illinois House and Senate enact something that will prevent him from appointing someone to President-elect Obama's seat in the Senate. Trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder (allegedly)?? Demanding people be fired because they don't like him (allegedly)?? It's crazy. And now the state is in political turmoil on top of the financial turmoil we're already struggling with.

Like I said, if it's not one thing, it's another. I suppose this too, like the blister on the side of my foot, shall pass, but it's going to leave another scar on Illinois politics (which, unfortunately, already looks like a punch drunk prize fighter). I hope we can get it right the next time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday, Chez A :-)

OK - when I said it was cold on Tuesday - I was mistaken. Thursday was cold. Yesterday was cold. HolyMotherofGod cold. I had to break out the Industrial Strength Hat and Scarf on Thursday, something I usually don't have to do until January, because usually it doesn't get this cold until January.

I don't mean to complain, because I truly do love all four of the seasons we get here. And hey - it's like 28 today - a veritable heatwate. At any rate, it's WAY better than where I used to live in SoCal. We had two seasons there: Brown, and On Fire. I'm not kidding.

But geez - it was cold yesterday. This morning it warmed up enough to snow some more, and I got outside to refill the bird feeder, and hauled out the snowblower to clear the driveway before I headed out to have lunch with my cousin N and her family. We had a lovely time - looking over old photographs from Ireland.

And I'm home now - and I'm spending my afternoon and early evening in my living room. I spend most of my time in my sunroom. It's a beautiful place to be and I'm very grateful for it. But I love my living room. Here's how it looks today - decked out in most of it's Christmas finery. See that Christmas stocking? That's mine from when I was a little girl - I wanted to be a ballerina (doesn't every little girl?). I think that the girl on the stocking is really an angel (she has a glitter halo), but I always thought she was a ballerina (that's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-) ). I'm not sure what the seal with ball on his nose has to do with the ballerina, but there it is. :-)

I fired up the fireplace (pardon the pun), and I'm about to curl up on the leather sofa and read. It's one of those cushy, sort of an overgrown club chair sort of sofas. So comfy. I have Christmas tunes on the telly, and I'm going to read some more of Meg Cabot's Size 14 is not Fat Either. It's part of the Heather Wells mysteries. Meg Cabot is hilarious.

The fire is roaring and crackling, and the candles are lit - they are Yankee's Christmas Wreath, which makes the entire house smell like there is a real Christmas tree in here. I'm sorta wishing I had someone to share it with. I wonder if that means I'm ready to date again . . .

Anyway.

I got to ride in on the train with KniftyRed yesterday because I was pokey and missed my regular train. We talked a little about the Knit-A-Long that she and I and Knitterary and probably a few others from our SnB are going to do in the new year. We're all going to knit Alice Starmore's St. Brigid. I'm excited about this - and I have yarn from my stash all ready to go. I just need to finish St. Patrick first :-D

But first, the fire is calling . . . :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brrrrrr. . .

OK - it's cold here. And it got cold like overnight on Sunday. Winter is here - my Christmas decorations are up! I had to fire up the snowblower yesterday! And man was it cold today. I'm wearing pajamas. Because I'm cold. I actually had to turn the heat up to 68 on both furnaces.

We had our first real snowfall on Monday. This is usually when people start in with the "I'll bet you miss Southern California now, don't you?" line. Just so you know: No, I don't. I love all four seasons, and I wish I could have captured the snow in my backyard yesterday in the dawn light. Quite surreal, actually. And so very beautiful.

Chicago is always a beautiful city to me - no matter what time of year it is, but at this time of year, I think it steals Paris' "City of Lights" crown. Every tree on the Magnificent Mile is covered in Italian lights (for those of you not from here, they call them twinkle lights in a lot of other parts of the world) - and not just on North Michigan Avenue, pretty much all over downtown you can find trees and shrubs covered in Italian lights. The gigundous tree in Daley Plaza is lit, and everyone is bundled up. That's what you do here in the winter - you just wear a lot of clothes :-)

And for my friend, Michelle, who envies my life right now . . . they say the grass is always greener - although here right now, it's . . . um . . . .whiter. I know in your heart you would not trade your son, your sheep, your chickens and your man for the single life in the Windy City. Maybe for a day or two, but I imagine you would soon tire of my daily commute to the city and my desk job, and coming home and trying to cook healthily for one, and sleeping single in a double bed. I could be wrong, though - perhaps you need to come to the city for a visit to see what life in the big city is really like. :-) . . . . :-D sorry, I'm just laughing at the thought of me on your ranch . . . and those who know me in person are really laughing, because I'm such a city girl. I'm exactly where I'm meant to be - and I suspect, so are you :-)

Finally the Saxony Socks are done. I made these in the largest size and then decreased down to 64 stitches when I switched to stockinette for the foot. These photos will biggify if you click on them - I'm sorry they are not better, but I don't seem to have the knack for indoor photos that KniftyRed has with hers. Better light would help, I'm sure. These have, once and for all, cemented my dislike of variegated yarns for stitch work. I wish I would have figured this out sooner because I got an armoire full of gorgeous variegated sock yarns with which I will be making plain stockinette socks. Oh well - they'll be easy to do on the train. Live and learn.

The cables are much more visible in person than in either of the photos. These are going to my cousin, B. She insisted she didn't care about the obvious biasing that's going on. I suppose you won't see it under her jeans anyway, but it really bothers me and I've never had this problem before.

I don't know why this happened, but it was consistent with both socks. Working the seed stitch I was constantly "un-twisting" the yarn. I don't know if this biasing is inherent in the pattern, or if it was the pattern coupled with knitting in the round (i.e., never purling back on the seed stitch). At any rate - I'm not happy with them, but B will love them. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Wild Iris colorway - not one of my favorites, truth be told. And for some reason, in the first photo it looks like there is blue in the yarn. There is no blue - it's purple, green and brown. I'm happy these are done ;-D

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Bought Yarn Today . . .

I didn't really fall off the Stash Busting Wagon - because I didn't buy yarn for the stash, but still, I bought yarn and this was not one of my dispensations. So my record is 93 days.

I bought one skein of Classic Elite Yarn Montera so that I would have one to test with and work with to assist in getting my handspun to the proper weight for the Iona sweater. I called around today - no one carries this yarn around here! I checked My Sister's Knits, Nana's Knitting Shop and The Fold - all my regular/local (sorta) haunts. I thought The Fold would carry it because they have other Classic Elite yarns, but no luck., So, I did some searching on Ravelry and found some single skeins of the stuff that people wanted to divest. 6 bucks later, and I should have my skein by the end of the week :-) Yay!

In the meantime, I'm still spinning that Cormo. If I can fill another bobbin, I should be pretty close to finishing up. I will be happy to spin something that drafts more easily. I'm actually thinking about spinning some BFL I got earlier this year up at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair before I spin the Iona wool. It's from Miss Bab's, in the Blue View colorway (which I no longer see on her site). I've been spinning Targhee and Cormo lately, and love them both, but they are both very elastic fibers, and I would like to get my hands more accustomed again to regular wool before I start on the Iona wool. I do, however, have 4 oz. of Targhee that I should spin to finish that off - I'm getting as bad with start-itis with my spinning as I was this summer with my knitting!

I am truly enjoying my days off - Thanksgiving was great fun, and I didn't really eat too much, which is good. I've been walking on the treadmill, and spinning and knitting. I'm on to the heel of the second Saxony Sock. I will be glad to have them done. Then I have a second sock for another cousin, and my Christmas socks for me. I'm afraid that with project, church lady knitting and family sock knitting, NaFi(nish)SweMo went by the wayside. I have not finished my St. Patrick sweater. but I hope to before the end of the year. Cross your fingers! I have two more days off - this break was a smart choice.

I managed to get the trash out last night, and I got all the outside furniture from the gazebo into the garage. I need to cover the grill, and I should be ready for the rain/snow tomorrow. I also got some winterizer down on the lawn, and over-seeded the front. I hope that works . . . my lawn was craptastic this year I'm afraid. I also got the bird-feeder back up, and hopefully have outwitted the squirrels by using a carabiner to hold the feeder to the chain. They knocked it off the chain (which is quite a feat) twice, but so far with this new way, they have not managed to get it apart. Yay! Today I had a Blue Jay, a Red Bellied Woodpecker (I don't know why they call them that - maybe because Red Headed was taken?) and a Chickadee along with the usual sparrows, finches and Cardinals.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year at this time, I really do take some time to think and write about that for which I am thankful. It's a long list this year. I am very blessed.

I have spent my morning going through old photos because I'm going to my cousin N's for Thanksgiving day. My family is from Belfast, and when my grandparents came here, bringing my mom and my uncle (yes, I'm a first-generation American :-) ), they were the only members of my grandmother's side of the family to come to America. Everyone else went to Canada. N is my Canadian cousin. Her mom (see the cashmere scarf below) is the last living link to Belfast. She was my grandmother's niece - the grandmother who taught me how to knit. Anyway, I'm going to N's this year for Thanksgiving and I'm really looking forward to it.

And so I went through the old photos to see what there was. It's hard now - my mom and grandmother are both gone, and neither of them were very good at labeling anything . . . but I can identify a few people, and one of the Canadian's has started big into genealogy, so I'm taking what I can today and it will be fun for them to at least look them over.

And there are boxes of them - my mom's life in pictures. She never got around to sorting them out, and there are more pictures of her various Maltese dogs than Carter had pills. :-D I think this will be a very good project sometime soon. It's the last thing to do - the last stuff to go through that was her's. I did all the rest, but there were so many photos that I just couldn't face them when she died. But now - now I think the time might be right. So many memories . . .

I am thankful for my family . . . for my friends . . .that I have a job . . . that I have a roof over my head and food to eat . . . that I have a car to drive . . . warm clothes to wear. I am thankful for every single day that I wake up - life is short and I long ago stopped wishing away my days. I'm thankful for every minute I have, even the irritating ones (my friends call me a "glass half full" person). I'm thankful that I am healthy, that I can hear, I can see, I can sing, and dance, and make music. I'm thankful that I can knit, and spin, and create with my hands. I'm thankful that I have loved and been loved. I'm thankful that I can walk to work - well, walk to the train and then to work. I'm thankful that I live in Chicagoland. The list goes on, but you get the picture. I'm a very lucky woman. Pretty much the luckiest woman in the world, if you want to know the truth :-)

Happy Thanksgiving - I hope that your day - and your life - is filled with joy and all the things you are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Here!!!!!

I got an email on Monday morning about my fiber, and today, when I arrived home from work, there was the box on my front porch. 3.8 pounds of Corriedale wool blended with my Iona wool. I am so excited about this wool. It's a little more grey than I anticipated, but I like it very much - probably better than had it turned out to be bright white. There is now less possibility I will dye it once it is spun.

And speaking of spinning it - I'm terrified. I'm going to try getting gauge with some other yarns around here and I will be falling off the stash busting wagon to purchase a skein of the commercial yarn that October Frost is shown in (once you click, scroll a bit - it's the orange cardi) to test my gauge and see how that yarn is spun. I hear from my teacher that sometimes handspun can be spun so that it's too dense and heavy, and then the weight amount required will be very off. She says getting a skein of the recommended commercial yarn is a very good idea. It's Classic Elite Yarns Montera. I hope it's not discontinued.

I didn't open the bag yet, or I would have taken a better photo - but the roving is pin drafted and it's in there pretty tightly - I think they do that to prevent felting during transport.

And just to show that some knitting has been happening, here is a little Branching Out scarf. I have made a number of these scarves, but always before out of Brooks Farm Primero that I had left over from making Clapotis shawls. I made this one for my cousin N's mom. She's 97. She has macular degeneration so she won't really see it so well, but it's cashmere, so I think she will like wearing it. The yarn is Handmaiden cashmere in the Joker colorway. I don't really know what possessed me to buy it, and I had a lot of trouble with it on the swift so I just took it off and wound it by hand. The pattern is visible, but again, for any kind of stitch definition, I really think that solids and semi-solids are the way to go. Still, I like how it looks - very cheery :-)

I highly recommend the Branching Out pattern. It's a great place to start as you learn to knit lace, and even if you are quite experienced, it's just a great pattern. Some times the simple things are the most beautiful :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time Compression

Wow - sorry - little blog break here. There has been no knitting to show - at least none that's finished. I think my hopes for NaFi(nish)SweMo are slim to none. I started another pair of socks for a cousin, and although I ripped out the failed Tannenbaum socks, I started another plain stockinette pair with some very festive holiday yarn, and I've also started the second of the Saxony Socks. So, there's just a lot of stuff that's "in progress." :-)

I did get the news today that the fiber that is destined to become my "Iona Sweater" left the mill this morning and is on its way to me!!! I have been hopping from foot to foot for weeks waiting for it, and now, it's finally on it's way!! It's a Corriedale fleece from Moonshadow Farm in Minnesota - I picked it up this summer at the Michigan Fiber Festival, and dropped it off, along with the Iona wool (picked up from the ground on my trip to Iona) with Ohio Valley Natural Fibers there at the Festival. And now, 3.8 pounds (finished weight) of Corriedale blended with Iona wool is on its way. I'd say it was winging its way, but I think it's coming in a postal truck, not a plane :-D So, lots of spinning in store for me this winter!!

I've been thinking alot about time compressing lately.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a minister who was at the church I attended during my high school years. He and his wife had a great impact on my life and also my mom's. We stayed in touch over the years - we rented a house from them at one point, and they visited us in Germany, and we visited them in California. And when I was living in Colorado, they steered me toward the church I attended there - their dear friend was the minister and they said I would like him and his wife and their church. They were right.

I think sometimes we have no idea of lives we touch and the effect we have on people. My friends from Colorado (the minister and wife that I would like) came to participate in the service, and I was so happy to see them, even though it was for a sad occasion. It was so good to hear the husband from the pulpit again, and his wife and I spent the entire luncheon catching up on their family and my other band of "Church Ladies." :-)

There were other people from the Park Ridge church there, and after the service, I learned of the recent death of someone a year behind me in high school - lung cancer. Not someone I had kept in touch with, but someone whose family had been important to me. He rang me out of the blue about 12 years ago, but we didn't stay in touch - and I had wondered if I would see him and his family at the memorial. I was shocked to learn that he had died.

So many places and people in our lives - so many experiences that would never have happened except for a person or a choice. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Even so - a day touched with sadness and yet filled with the great happiness and comfort of old friends.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Snowing!

I just looked out the window, and it's snowing. It's just little flurries, still, it's the first snow I have seen this season. I doubt it will stick, and I tried to take a photo, but the camera wouldn't capture it.

This has been quite a week - so much going on - work very busy, life in general very busy, and yet I feel more in control of my life than I have for some time. I have spent the better part of a year simplifying my life in a number of ways. I always have a bag going for the Second Chance Shop, and I guess most importantly, I've learned how to say "No" more often. OK - October, not so good with the "no" saying, but November - well, I'm a champ in November.

And because I am saying no, I have more energy and time to devote to the things I really want to say "Yes" to :-) And at this time of year, one of those things is my church choir. I finally made it to choir practice this week, and remembered why I still sing. I can't sing professionally any more (thank you asthma meds . . . :-( ) but even though I don't do any solo work, I can still sing in the choir, and I really really enjoy it. And now, we are getting ready for Christmas. And come on, who doesn't love Christmas music, both sacred and secular? :-)

I've mentioned "Church Lady Knitting" here before - today we had a lot of shawls in the sanctuary to be dedicated, and I spoke for a few minutes about the prayer shawl ministry and how it's going, etc., etc. My short talk was very well-received and I was very happy about that. We have such a great knitting group at church - I have taught some of them to knit and some already knew - as a group we have given 17 shawls this year, most recipients were facing or recovering from surgeries and/or serious illness. The Prayer Shawl Ministry is international in scope, but it happens locally - one shawl at a time. I really enjoy being a part of it.

So, it's snowing - this week the City has started putting up the huts and buildings for the Christkindlemarket, which has a sneak preview on Thanksgiving day - right after the parade, if I'm not mistaken, and actually jumps off on Friday, November 28th. Big fun - don't miss it! And the cranes are in place, building the huge Christmas tree in Daley Plaza. Christmas seems early, somehow - I guess because so many merchants, beat down by the economic crisis have had Holiday merchandise on the shelves for weeks already in an effort to capitalize completely on what is usually the biggest money-maker all year long.

OK - not snowing anymore - like I said, just a flurry :-)

Yesterday - big fun, Chez A. Linda, Jamie, Racheal and Kris over for a day of hanging out, knitting, spinning, and watching Om Shanti Om! What fun. I have seen the film before, but Linda really wanted to see it, and I loved seeing it again. To watch a Bollywood film, you have to have a 3-hour window of time. They are long :-D so, we had lunch (a beef stew that I put in the crockpot in the middle of the night on Friday so it would be ready for lunch on Saturday), a very tasty Shiraz, some French bread, and some pumpkin cupcakes, and then we all settled down in my sunroom to knit, spin and watch the movie.

In a Bollywood film, one of the special features of any disk is the songs - you can click and go right to any song in the film. I love that! We watched Dard-e-Disco more than once . . . Shahrukh Khan's 6-pack, a little water, a little more water . . . what's not to like? ;-) And just for Linda, here's a YouTube of Hrithik Roshan . . .

It was a lovely day and I enjoyed having my friends here in my home. I got some more spinning done on the Cormo that is languishing, and I ripped out that Christmas sock I had started. All that stitch work was just NOT visible on the variegated yarn. So it's wound back on the ball and I'll make the socks out of a solid/semi-solid. Live and learn.

Hope you are happy and safe, wherever you might be. :-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Some Resting, Some Thinking, and Some Knitting

Today was a stay-at-home day. Since last Friday when the weather warmed up here, I've been miserable. I have allergy-induced asthma, and am allergic to whatever was trying to grow this week. It wasn't a bad asthma attack, but even a minor one is never fun - it wears you out trying to get enough oxygen in, and then there's all the glop you have to cough up out of your lungs at the tail end of an attack. TMI? Prolly - sorry.

I'm still on a high from the results of this historic Presidential election on Tuesday. As I cast my ballot for change early Tuesday morning, I realized it was going to be a very long day at the office. I got in and out in about a half an hour, and decided I'd just go in to work early. I left early, too - caught an "extra" train at 3:10 and was lucky to get a seat (sorry I didn't see you, Red). I curled up on the sofa to watch the returns, sometimes dozing, but was electrifyingly awakened somehow as McCain delivered his concession speak. He was gracious in defeat - and eloquent. It was a very good speech, and I wondered where that McCain had been throughout the campaign.

But finally, as a country we stood up and made it be known around the world that yes, we can. And boy, did we ever! My cousin Jessie was downtown at the rally in Grant Park. This was her first election and she was very excited. Jessie didn't have a ticket, so she watched it all from the North end of the park on the jumbotron, but she'll be able to tell her grandchildren that she was there on that historic night. She texted me at - at 12:30 in the morning - and said: "The Obama rally downtown was INCREDIBLE!!!"

If you grew up in my family, you didn't have much of a chance/choice about being political. From an early age we were all taught that what happens in government affects us all and that it was a privilege to participate. At various points in our lives we've been involved with politics somehow at some point - working on campaigns, running for office, raising money, being active in community government, and of course, voting.

And in the midst of all this excitement, lots of knitting and spinning has been happening, but because I had start-itis (which I'm still blaming on Knitterary ;-D), not much is finished yet - but here are my Spring Fling socks - all done! I did not carry the pattern down the foot, just popped one diamond in the middle.

And here's another Wendy Johnson pattern - this one is her Feather and Fan scarf. I'm knitting it with true fingering weight yarn, on size 4 needles. It's taking for-fricking-ever. But it's awfully pretty - makes me think of sunflowers every time I pick it up to work on it. This is superwash sock yarn from JWrayco in the Flowers on the Beach colorway. I started socks with this, but frogged them. This is very fine yarn, and I would have had to go down to 0's to get a nice firm fabric. Yikes!

I'm still stash-busting and it's making me happy! I finished spinning up 4 oz. of Mountain Colors Targhee roving, and switched back to the Cormo I was talking about months ago - it's time to finish that up, and then I'll spin the other 4 oz. of the Targhee and ply and finish that!

And here's an update on NaFi(nish)SweMo. It's kind of hard to see the cable work, although I did futz with the picture in PhotoShop to try to get the cable to stand out. As you'll recall, the back and the front ribbing was done during the summer (hence the "Fi" part of NaFi(nish)SweMo), and now I'm more than 2/3rds of the way up the front, which I think is pretty fast, since I started the body of this section on November 1st. Yay! Certainly I'll have the full body done this month, and there's real hope that I will get the sleeves done, too!

The temps have chilled down again here in Chicagoland - so I should be breathing normally very soon :-) No real plans this weekend - which is wonderful, actually :-D I'll be knitting and spinning, and hopefully not coughing so much, and just generally relaxing and being mellow - and in that spirit, here's one of my all-time favorite James Taylor songs. Enjoy :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please VOTE Today!

My friends, do not forget to VOTE today! Go. Stand in that line. Yes, your vote DOES make a difference. These words have been attributed to the late Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist. I have them pinned up on my bulletin board at home:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

So, go! Vote!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Neti Pot!

OK - I was really not excited about this, but my cousin, Mary Ellen (she's always in charge ;-)) rang me today to see how I was feeling and did I want her to come over and bring me a Neti Pot.

Since I was still feeling pretty punk, I sort of whined into the phone, "oh, ok, I guess - but make sure you get me a new one. I don't want a used one." This, of course, made us both laugh, and me cough. So, she only lives about 3 miles from me, so she ran over to Walgreen's and picked one up, as well as some cranberry juice for me (big treat!!).

I decided to give the Neti Pot a try because she's been bugging me about it, and my Iona sister, Tori, also said it was good . . . Just the thought of it creeped me out, but I really still didn't feel too hot today, so OK - I tried it. It's a very strange sensation, and the water doesn't come out the other side right away, which made me think I was filling up my head with salt water :-D Of course it does, eventually, come out the other side - in my case amidst a few well-placed and panicky exclamations: "It's Not Coming Out!!!" and "Ack!!" once it did, and some spluttering of water out the old schnoz. And one has to remember to not breathe in through the nose. This is key.

Spluttering and Ack-ing aside, I have to say that I think it really helped my sinuses! I do feel better, and my nose has been a little runny now all afternoon, which leads me to believe that I'm going to successfully avoid having this settle and go in to an actual infection. This is good news - I've had enough antibiotics this fall already.

The bad news appears to be - and it's completely unrelated to my nose - that I think there are mice in the attic again . . .

Oh - I'm nearly halfway up the front of the St. Patrick! I had the band done already, but since I picked it back up yesterday, I've gotten quite a bit accomplished - and watched a ton of episodes of Stargate SG1. :-D

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kinda Crabby . . .

I planned all this week to go in to work today. I don't do this very often, but today was going to be my day to get a whole lot of stuff that's been languishing taken care of.

Am I at work? No.

At least I'm being somewhat productive at home, but really, how do our bodies know when we need a rest??? And when we don't listen, how irritating it is that they eventually MAKE us listen???

I don't think it's a cold, I think it's allergy/sinus gunk from the weather warming up again for a few days, and obviously from my sleeping with my mouth open all night last night (TMI? Sorry). Whatever - I had to pull out the big gun: Allegra (and ensure that all rest of my asthma meds that I can usually let slide a little are not sliding at all).

You know how you can just feel something coming on? How one moment you're fine, and the next, you know you're going down for the count? Happened about 4:50 yesterday, just as I was getting ready to leave the office to get home for trick or treaters (I got Snickers bars and I didn't even have ONE KID :-( ). I got that funny, "uh oh" feeling. Got home, had some dinner and stayed up as long as I could, but finally at about 8:30 I took in the Halloween metal pumpkin head that I put out on the porch, turned off the porch light, and curled up on the sofa, where I was instantly asleep.

Woke up to go to bed around 1 a.m., and woke up for real at my normal 4:45 a.m., with a brutal sore throat on just the right side. Managed to conk back out until 7:30, and I'm quite a bit better now, and no white patches, which is why it's likely allergy and not something really wrong, but it really threw a spanner in the works for my day's plans. I'm not great enough to haul myself down to the train station, ride for an hour, and then hoof it across the Loop to work for 7 hours and then travel in reverse to get home. And I'm too foggy to drive. Crabby. Crabby. Crabby.

Oh well - I've gotten some spinning done, some more rows on a Christmas sock, and I'm sorting the mountain of papers (clearly, I have turned in to my mother . . . ) that have accumulated in my office. I swear - they mate and make MORE paper.

According to Michelle over at Boulderneigh, November is National Knit a Sweater Month - NaKniSweMo. Apparently this was started by knitgrrl a couple of years ago, and now there's an actual "official" pattern for this year. However, I heard about it from Michelle, so this is all her fault ;-D

I don't want to start another sweater today - although there are plenty in my queue just waiting for me to get cracking. I have a sweater on the needles. No - I have TWO sweaters on the needles. So. I have decided that this will be NaFi(nish)SweMo for me - let's see if I can finish the St. Patrick by November 30th! This could be challenging - it's too big for train knitting, so it will likely only get worked on at home, or at places where I can spread out with the charts, etc. Wish me luck!

And wish me some good rest and a night of sleeping with my mouth closed ;-)

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Take it easy, but take it"

Studs Terkel died today. :-(

A true legend in his own time. The master of the oral history - pretty much created the genre. A pioneer in what became known as the "Chicago school" of television back in the early 1950's. A "character" if there ever was one.
If you don't know who Studs Terkel was, you owe it to yourself to go and pick up a copy of Division Street: America, or The Good War, for which he won a Pulitzer. If I'm not mistaken, a lot of his work and recordings are at the Chicago History Museum (formerly the Chicago Historical Society). In fact, if you have any interest at all in the history of Chicago in all its facets, a day or two at the History Museum would be a great thing for you :-) It's one of my favorite places, although I haven't visited it for awhile. I used to live very close to it and visited a lot more then . . .

Studs Terkel was the commencement speaker at my college graduation ceremony . . . and one of those people, like my late mother, who you'd think would always be around - ageless somehow. He was 96. Roger Ebert wrote about him in the Sun Times today - it's worth reading. So are Studs Terkel's books - there's a new one coming out next month - a memoir. It's on my "to read" list.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Seasons Change

Yesterday I was at the Morton Arboretum. I went to judge the Fox Valley African Violet show. It was a small show, but very nice, and nicely set up. They have some great growers and innovative designers in their club. This was the first time I was invited to judge for them, and I really enjoyed it. Got to see some friends and enjoy some lovely plants. I was sorely tempted to come home with a leaf or two, but violets are like yarn - if you don't watch yourself, all of sudden you have far more than you can handle at any given time :-D

One of the great things about the show location in the Arboretum is that as a judge, I got in for free! So, once everything was done, I took a drive around both loops of the grounds. The Arboretum is situated on the site of the old Morton mansion (think Morton Salt :-) ) in Lisle, Illinois. You can hike, or bike or drive, and since it was chilly yesterday, and I didn't have walking gear, I drove. It took close to an hour to drive both loops. Not because they are so long, but because I drove so slowly - I didn't want to miss anything, so gliding through the forest at about 1o or 15 mph is just about perfect.

I pulled over more than once to let cars pass me - they were in a hurry and I was not :-) There are 1,700 acres of land, planted with every tree and shrub imaginable. It's really an amazing place - and I think it's at its most beautiful at this time of year. I love how the leaves change - their last hurrah before winter. The colors of the summer just past in the yellows and greens, the rusts and flame oranges of the season that is, and the reds and greens of Christmas to come.


It's about 40 miles from my house, and I was wishing I had brought my hiking gear, because you can walk for a very long time there and not see another living being. It's this amazing oasis in the middle of Chicagoland. I would like to go there more often.

Yesterday I laid a fire in the fireplace and lit the first blaze of the cooler weather. Today, I finished the red socks (the Spring Fling socks from yesterday's post) - and I watched a Bollywood movie. I can knit even with subtitles, so that was three hours right there :-D I watched Dil Se, a movie starring Shahruhk Kahn. It was very good but it is an older film - about 10 years old - and none of the songs had subtitles (most do in newer Bollywood films). I was sorry about that because I think I lost a few things, but it was a good film and very different from most others I've seen - much more serious.

Well, time to get ready for the week - the last week of October . . . oh how I hate to see October go . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just Checking In . . .

Just to prove that yes, there is SOME knitting going on here, here are the socks I just did for one of my cousins, S. When her mom, K, got another pair of socks from me, she wailed, "Why does she get everything? I want some pretty socks, too!" Since no one except K has ever expressed any interest in anything I make, I was pleasantly surprised, and told S I would make her a pair. These are made from my tried and true standby, Opal. I love it - it wears like iron and to me it's always beautiful :-)

Here's some of my handspun - these are made of the Colonial I spun up awhile ago. The color is a little washed out - they are darker than they appear here. These armwarmers are based on the Highwayman pattern, but without the cables. The cables sucked all the stretch from the ribbing, so I went with just the ribbing and I love them. I've been wearing them all week long!

I'm still in the cast on a million projects mode, and I'm still blaming it on Knitterary ;-D

In the midst of the St. Patrick sweater (A Fine Fleece), I needed to just do something quick - thus, here's one Saxony sock. Also from A Fine Fleece, I thought this would be a nice, quick knit. It's going to K's other daughter, B, who, when she realized her sister was getting socks (and would have gotten this pair had they fit her) piped up with, "these fit me!" and so she's the next in line. Unfortunately I'm not too happy with this sock. You can probably see why - the biasing in the calf is quite bothersome, but B insisted that it didn't bother her - I think she was enamored of the Celtic knot :-) I've had some trouble recently with biasing and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the direction in which I wind the yarn off the swift, or if it was just this seed stitch calf . . . anyway, this is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Iris colorway. This yarn has an almost cottony feel to it - really doesn't feel like wool to me at all. It's pretty, I just wish it wasn't pulling so hard. We'll see how it goes with the other sock.

And here's another sock I started. This is the first of Wendy Johnson's Spring Fling Socks. This pattern was written by Wendy for The Loopy Ewe's 2008 Spring Fling. It's written both toe-up (a Wendy specialty) and top-down. I went for top-down. The yarn is Yarn Nerd 900 MHz, in the Raspberry Sherbet colorway, from The Loopy Ewe. I am leaning more and more toward the semi-solids for socks with stitch interest. So much gets lost using variegated yarns for many patterned socks. Here's a closeup of the leg. I did not carry the diamonds down onto the foot, just put one in the middle there. I like how it looks :-) I'm on the heel flap of the second sock, so these will be done soon - and they are for me! A nice change :-)

So, not much is finished, but a lot is getting done, and my stash is getting smaller! And not just from knitting - one of my Iona sisters, Cheryl, was here last weekend. She had mentioned wanting to go to a yarn store, but I knew we weren't going to get the chance to do that, so I shopped my stash for her :-D And did you notice? It's two months today - I've been on the stash-busting wagon for two whole months! I've discovered that the longer I go without, the easier it is to say no to more yarn/fiber. For now, anyway ;-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm so Jazzed!

So, I walked away from my desk yesterday morning for a moment, and when I returned, the guy who sits next to me said, "I think your phone was ringing - Charlie Brown" which means that my cell phone rang. Where I work they prefer that you not use your cell phone, which is why if mine is out on my desk charging, I always have it on silent. But it was in my bag, in a desk drawer (OK - it's a loud ringer so I can hear it, and yes, I have my beloved "Linus and Lucy" theme back as my ringer because it's my really old phone). I looked at the phone, and the missed call was a number I didn't recognize.

I looked up where area code 319 is . . . Iowa . . . and there was a message . . . . "hello, this is Officer xxx, calling from the Waterloo Police Department. We have your wallet." She proceeded to rattle off everything that was in it - everything is still there except, of course, for the cash and postage stamps. It was dumped at the library, it's not icked up at all, and by tonight it should be winging its way home to me!!! I overnighted a UPS shipping bag for her to overnight it back to me.

I'm so jazzed!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Questions on the Floor

Fall is here in Chicagoland. The trees are turning and I finally had to cut the furnace on. I actually had to turn it on on Sunday, October 5th for about 6 hours because It was 56 degrees in here and even with a sweater on (the pink sweater that no one but me likes) over my microfleece, my nose was running from the cold. But I was able to shut it back off until this weekend.

I trimmed the shrubs today - which is way late, but I never got the chance to do it earlier. So, they won't bloom next year, but least the one viburnum at the corner of the house doesn't look like Don King anymore. I would have gotten more done, but I stepped on a nest (hive?) of yellow jackets. They burrow into the ground! My cousin and I thought we killed them, but we didn't. So, I had to stop or risk getting stung. I went to the store and got some foam stuff that will be spread tonight. Apparently they all sleep once it's dark and you don't get stung. I'll have to move away the mulch to find where the nest really is, and then I'm spraying it. Wish me luck!

It was a day of errands - a haircut and multiple trips to an apartment I have on the market to make sure everything's in order as the weather gets cooler :-) I even got to spin for an hour or so!

Anyway -there are two questions on the floor.

First: Yarnsnob wants to know how I grow my plants and if they would grow in a place that doesn't have a lot of light.

Well, African violets like the same conditions humans like. Not too cold, not too hot, not in a draft. A lot of bright indirect light, and they don't like to have their feet wet for any great length of time (the most prevalent cause of "violet death" is over-watering). So, if you have a bright Northeast window, that's usually a good bet. A South or Southwest window, not so much. In the winter it would probably be OK, but it would be too direct for most of the rest of the year.

And how do I get my plants to look like that? Well, I grow for show, which means I forced the plants to bloom on my schedule in hopes that they would have great heads of bloom for the show. This usually works pretty well - I use a 12-week pre-show schedule that gradually increased light and uses a couple different types of fertilizer, usually including a bloom-booster for a number of the weeks. Also, I grow my plants on light carts (they cost a lot more now than they used to) so that I can control their environment better and regulate how much light they get. My plants were good, but they've been better. I didn't take as good care of them this summer - mainly because I had too many! I currently grow about 47 varieties.

Next, Michelle wants to know where I carry my "stuff" if I don't carry it in my wallet. I haven't carried my driver's license in my wallet in years. I have a separate case for it and a select number of cards. I actually read an article recently that said you should never carry everything in your wallet. I also generally don't bring everything with me when I travel - put that stuff in the vault and take only what you need. I mean, really, if you're going to Mexico, you don't need your JP Penney card, or your local sandwich shop punch card (you get the picture!). That way, should the worst happen, you don't lose everything. I'm quite thankful that I didn't lose my driver's license nor my main credit card because only my wallet was taken. Been interesting this week operating with an old wallet - it's empty :-D

There's knitting happening - finished a pair of socks, and am more than half way through another. I also found what I hope is going to be a great Christmas sock pattern! Cross your fingers :-) Oh, and I'm SO tempted to fall off the stash-busting wagon, because look at what's coming to The Loopy Ewe: Polar Fleece Yarn!!! How kewl is that???!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Waterloo . . . not Abba ;-D

This weekend I traveled to Waterloo, Iowa for the Missouri Valley African Violet Council's fall convention and show. I'm an Advanced Judge of African violets, and my credentials were going to expire in 2009. I'm not eligible to test for Senior Judge until 2010, which left me a year gap. So, off to judging school I went with my friend, Judi D, and since we were going, I decided to take some plants to enter in the show. As a judge I'm required to show plants and get at least three blue ribbons during the time between each required re-test.

It was really a fun weekend - as well as an enjoyable ride over with Judi, I got to see some of my dearest friends, J and K (you might remember I went to Wisconsin Dells with them this summer :-) ), and entered my plants, took my test, and, last but not least: got robbed.

Yes, you read that right. Someone stole my wallet. It sucked to be me on Saturday around noon . . .the culprit lifted my wallet (not my purse - just the wallet) from the classroom where we were attending school. Although the center where we were is a public building, I didn't realize that it was open to the public at the time we were there (early in the day). We broke for a couple of minutes and since I thought we were in a secure location, I left my purse in the room while I went to suss out a bottle of water.

I cannot imagine that anyone in our group took it, which means it was someone at the building or someone off the street. I filed a police report, and one of the maintenance guys there helped me look in all the dumpsters and around the grounds in case someone had dumped it. No luck :-( I'm sorry to have lost the wallet - it was a nice one. I'm also sorry to have lost the laminated card from my mother's wake and funeral. I used to carry it with me all the time. Thankfully I found that I had another copy here at home - not laminated, but at least I didn't lose it totally.

I did lose about 250 bucks - I can only hope that whoever took it really needed it. Maybe they didn't have enough to eat, or had a sick child. . . I realize that's not too likely, but I hope so anyway. It could have been much worse - I read not too long ago that you shouldn't carry everything in your wallet. I never have carried my driver's license in my wallet - which was good, but having read that article, I recently starting carrying health care info and certain credit cards, etc. in other locations. So they pretty much only got cash - what cards there were I cancelled within the hour and no charges had been attempted. So let that be a lesson to you, don't carry all your stuff in one spot :-)

How wierd that they didn't grab my entire bag - there was a lot of stuff in there. It's funny - I've traveled all over the world, and I had to go to IOWA to get robbed. Geez :-S

In happier news, I'm pretty proud of my plants. I took nine to show and all got blue ribbons. I received two Best-in-Class. My species plant, which I showed back in July 2007, got one of those Best-in-Class ribbons, and was also Best Species and Third Best Violet in the Show! You can see how it has grown in the past year :-)

I also received the Purple Rosette for Second Best AVSA Standard Collection, which is a collection of three registered standard violets. Mine are, L to R, Silverglade Streams, Sansoucy' Julie Marie and Benediction. Truth be told, there were only two collections :-D but I was happy to have all these plants be scored as blue ribbon plants, which made them eligible for the collection award - Benediction's symmetry wasn't great, and Silverglade Streams could have used a bit more blossom - but I thought Julie Marie was a stunner, if I do say so myself ;-)

This is a streptocarpus - a cousin of the African violet. This one is Texas Hot Chili. I only grow a few streps (although I came home with a couple new ones!), and this one is notoriously slow-growing. Since I managed to get it to a 4" pot, and it was in bloom, I figured I would take it. I was pleased with the blue ribbon because this plant had at least 4 or 5 more bloomstalks when it left the house - they had to be removed because they didn't survive the trip. Still, I thought it acquitted itself pretty well :-)

Judi and I headed out early this morning - bless her heart, she's not really a morning person, so put up with my normal waking up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. (I was quiet :-) ), and she agreed to be on the road this a.m. by 7. We stopped for breakfast in Davenport, and then headed back to her place, where she gave me a couple leaves and a chimera plant, Emerald City! Woo Hoo! Chimeras are plants that have "pinwheel" blossoms. They don't bloom true from a leaf, so they are harder to come by and always cost more. I also came home with two new streptocarpus - one's a plantlet, Watermelon Wine, and the other is a leaf - a new hybrid from Dale Martens called Heartland's Bonfire. I can't wait for it to grow!

Some knitting got done, but between class, talking to the police, entering my plants, and seeing old friends, there wasn't much time for it.

OMG. I cannot get Abba's Waterloo out of my head now . . . :-D

Saturday, October 4, 2008

YarnCon!

Today the second annual YarnCon was held at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (historic!). Knifty Red and I headed up there to meet up with Linda, Rachel and Jamie, and we really had a great time :-) Don't Linda and Red look happy? :-) YarnCon was larger this year and had two rooms, which was very nice - I had been wondering how they were going to fit more vendors into the main auditorium. They didn't! Just opened up the gymnasium and included some tables for seating, which was nice.

YarnCon rocks. I mean really, where can you go and find local indie artists all in one place for three bucks? Lot's of roving (I found the woman I got that great superwash merino from last year! Her name is Lisa Mendez, but she doesn't have a website), and LOTS of sock yarn. Here are our pals, Aleta and Becca from Froebe Fibers!!

There were new vendors this year - and some that did not come back this year. One new vender was Esther's Place, which is the outlet for the Illinois Fiber Co-op, Greenpastures. I always like to see what they have, whether or not I buy anything. I just think it's so great that this Illinois co-op exists. I encourage you to click that link and read about it. :-) Here's some of their roving. Most of it is Montadale with some Corriedale - definitely not next-to-the-skin wool, but lovely nonetheless.

We stopped and had a nice chat with Franklin Habit. His new book looks very lovely! He was kind enough to give us black tote bags!! They have one of his illustrations, and are that great recycled, light weight, grocery style bag. We like them!! Thank you, Franklin :-)

By 11:30 we were hungry. Well, I was hungry at 10, but that's nothing new - I always have a snack around 10. We hoofed it over to Milk & Honey for lunch, which is what we did last year, too, and caught up with Rachel and Jamie there. Jamie was on her bike, so we said we'd meet her back at Pulaski Park, and we headed back East on Damen where we were compelled to make a stop at Nina's. I had never been there - very trendy/boutique-y, and exactly what you would expect to find in Wicker Park. Linda picked up some Kidsilk Haze, and after a call from Jamie wondering where the hell we were, we headed back to YarnCon.

We made the tour around everything again, and while the others were chatting with the Mason-Dixon folks (Linda wanted the new book but they were out), I wandered around a bit more. Here's some Lorna's Laces. It's pretty, isn't it? There was also some yarn called Sophie's Toes and there were two colorways I liked very much, both with the most wonderful names: "He Saw her Across a Smoky Bar," and "Oh! Nice Suit!" I showed them to Linda and she got them both :-D

And with that we were done - so we piled in the car - except for Jamie who rode - over to a very nice clothing store, Viva la Femme. I didn't find anything that I thought would work for me, but Linda hit the jackpot, as did Rachel. I will definitely check this place out again! And just up the street - another yarn store :-D We walked over to the Knitting Workshop. It was, as Red said, kinda like rootling around in someone's stash - someone's organized stash :-D We checked out the new Harry Potter Opal sock yarns. I really wanted some of them - kinda bummed that there is not one for Hermione! :-( This store is very comfy somehow - and I think there might always be something there to inspire one.

We parted company with Jamie and went to an Italian coffee bar, the name of which is escaping me at the moment, and regrouped, and then Red and I took our leave of Linda and Rachel and headed home.

I know you're wondering what I actually came home with . . . Maybe some of that Sophie's Toes? . . . some Froebe watermelon? . . . perhaps some more of that awesome merino superwash top? Well, the truth is that I came home with the bag that Franklin gave me. That's RIGHT!!! I'm on the stash-busting wagon, baby. I went to YarnCon and TWO yarn stores today and I didn't buy anything. I am a paragon of perfection - no question ;-) And now that I've said that, something's sure to come along and my feet of clay will be exposed for all to see. But for now, I'm still rocking the stash.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Favorite Time of Year . . .

It was 58 degrees in my house this morning when I woke up. This required fleecy slippers, pj bottoms and my fuzzy Clapotis shawl. I am resisting turning on the furnace for as long as humanly possible. I mean, it's only October 2nd for cryin' out loud. I am NOT turning the furnace on yet. And let's face it - even when I do turn it on, I don't turn it on very high anyway. In the words of former President Jimmy Carter, the last time we had an energy crisis: "Put on a sweater."

Energy crisis. Financial crisis. Political crisis. It's all making me a little cranky. Besides which, my White Sox (go American League!!) lost today, and my cousin's beloved Cubs lost yesterday. For awhile, early in the day yesterday, it was quite a day for Chicago baseball. Not that I've given up hope. Oh no - not me. Those Sox have every chance in the world to pull this off again. The Cubs? OK - let's face it: not so much . . . and yet they are the team of choice for most Chicagoans. A subway series would be amazing - actually, it might be a little scary in this crazy sports town. Yes, I'm a Sox fan, but it would be great for the Cubs to at least get the National pennant - but if they meet the Sox in the Series, I know where my heart lies :-)

I'm knitting! Yay!! I have a pair of socks that I started last Saturday. I'm nearly done with the heel flap on the second sock, so things are moving along there. Haven't had the opportunity for any spinning this week. But here's what's on the wheel. It's Mountain Colors' Targhee in the Sandstone colorway. It's like melted caramel and pumpkin pie - it's really beautiful stuff. I noticed something about this top when Red was over spinning the last time: The Mountain Colors top looks better spun up than it does as top. I'm spinning this finer than the Merino I did recently in the hopes of getting sport weight. I don't think I've got the singles small enough for fingering. That's OK.

Here's something else I've been working on. I don't usually take photos of works in progress, but this is really a great sweater. This is the back of the St. Patrick sweater from Lisa Lloyd's book, A Fine Fleece. I love this sweater and I love this yarn (Queensland Kathmandu Aran). It was tough getting a good photo of it - it really needs to be shot in better light, but you can see how lovely her design is. The green tweedy color is much richer than it appears here. I've got the front band done, and will be picking it up again as soon as I finish off a couple of the million other things I seem to have on the needles. It's worked as for the back, so I already have a good handle on the cables.

I'm blaming Knitterary for all this stuff sitting around not finished ;-D - she stopped casting stuff on for two months. And me, the one who usually finishes one or two projects at a time - never more than three on the needles (one of which is a sweater that's been languishing for a year . . . ) - well, I got some weird bug that made me cast on stuff like a maniac.

In addition to St. Patrick, and the Opal self-striping socks I have nearly finished, I have some wrist warmers in progress with some handspun; Wendy's Spring Fling socks started with some Yarn Nerd (really nice color saturations); one sock completed of the Saxony Socks (also from A Fine Fleece) in Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock; Wendy's Feather and Fan scarf on the needles; AND finish work to do on two scarves. This is just not like me at ALL :-D The good news is that all were done with yarn from the stash. Yay!!

My hand is good, but I'm still awfully tired - and not walking enough, which I know will make me feel better in every area . . .

Anyone else see the CHRISTMAS ads yet on the telly? There's a Christmas tree place up in Barrington: Tree Classics - only does mail order and the trees rock (I know because I got one last year!) - and they're sponsoring some show because I saw their ad the other day - it was actually in September! And in the "Chicago" shop in the train station, again last week, a new card rack was up in the window and it's full of red and green Christmas cards. And I was at Michael's on Monday, and although all the fall and Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff is out, there is one entire store aisle already devoted to Christmas stuff.

Christmas - the biggest retail event of the year, and one where many retailers make their annual profits. Clearly worries about the economy are causing many to start really early this year, milking it for all it's worth, I suppose. It caught me off guard to see all that holiday stuff so early.

The big event of the weekend in these parts (other than baseball right now) is YarnCon. Big fun last year and I have plans to go! Mostly to hang with my friends, because you know, I'm on the stash-busting wagon and really NOT buying any yarn or fiber right now - and YarnCon was not one of my planned dispensations. . . We'll see how it goes :-)

And now - the debate? Or the game? Or bed?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekend, Do What You Wanna Do . . .

Just a word of thanks - thank you for your comments and encouragement during this past week - not just here, but in emails and Ravelry PMs and posts. Thank you all so very much :-) And a special shout out to Miss Mac: Thank you for your typing - it was fab, Baby! You made my day :-)

The hand is looking pretty good! I can write again without too much discomfort, and the swelling is nearly gone. The new antibiotic is whipping me but good - I'm wiped out by the end of the day, but I'm hanging in there. More importantly, these cicada-sized pills appear to be whipping the infection, and my hand is starting to itch - the age old sign of something healing up. It's all good. :-)

In other happy news of the day - my Dishrag Tag Team, the Rag-Taggers, came in second place in the Dishrag Tag race!!! Woo Hoo!!! We get presents! :-D This was a very fun game and I would do it again next year - preferably with the same team, the Rag-Taggers rocked hard!!

Have a great weekend - I plan to - and hopefully there will be some posts with photos here again soon!

:-)

p.s. Yes, Michelle, Walgreens really is my favorite store. It's a long story . . . ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Quick Update

OK - there's good news and pretty much good news.

The good news is that according to my regular doctor, my hand is looking pretty good. It appears that the bite missed the actual knuckle joint (which is apparently really good news). It's also not likely that I'll have to have my hand opened up, so that's a huge relief to me - I've been quite anxious about it.

The pretty much good news is that I have to switch to a different, stronger antibiotic tonight, and take it for five days. And I have to go back again for another check of my hand on Monday. I mean really - this is way serious stuff. I can't remember the last time I had to track something like this so closely - and when doctors were so accommodating (just stop in - any time on Monday so I can look at it again).

There is no bad news. Yay!!!

What a learning experience this has been. . .

If the truth be told, I've never been much of a cat person and now I like them even less - except for my former cats, Bucky & Satchel. I was very fond of them. I trained them like dogs because I didn't know any better - they were just hilarious boys - 18 and 17 pounds, respectively. Satchel would even come when he was called most of the time :-D My ex wondered how I did it. Everyone who ever met them, loved them. I made them let me take food out of their mouths, touch their feet - all that stuff that you do with dogs. They never bit me, and many was the time I had to back Bucky up to my shins, open his mouth, stick a pill in, shut his mouth and rub his throat - just like a dog - and he didn't even fuss much.

Anyway - give me a dog any day of the week - wish I had one now, but circumstances are such that I'm petless - just not home enough. Maybe people will stop trying to get me to get cats now. I always politely refuse, but I'm hopeful that this will stop people asking altogether. I mean really, Bucky & Satchel were irreplaceable and I've never had the desire for any other cats.

In other good news, typing is much easier, and I can sort of hold a pen today - it's my hope that I'll be able to start knitting again by the weekend! In the mean time, I'm supposed to squeeze a tennis ball to keep my hand mobile. Woo Hoo! I'm off to Walgreens!! My favorite store!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cat Bites - Who Knew?

Yesterday was full of surprises.

I judged an African violet show, which I always enjoy, and I got to see some friends I don't get to see very often. I learned that we all rely heavily on a computer program developed to enter show exhibits and calculate all sorts of data. The poor club members had to enter all their exhibits by hand, doing the best they could, and our judging panel went more slowly, with lots of stops for looking up varieties and making sure plants were in classes where they would be judged properly. Still, it was a nice show and I so enjoyed seeing so many of my violet friends.

Then, since I was already on the North side, I headed over to Linda's. We spent an enjoyable afternoon together, knitting, talking and just generally hanging out - stuff we used to do a lot more when I lived in the city. We really had a nice afternoon!

Around 6:30 we headed out to have dinner at Gates BBQ (yum!) and the cat got out. To make a long story short - the cat bit me on my left index finger near when it joins my hand. I thought I had her by the scruff, but I apparently didn't have a good grip . . . Poor Linda - she was quite upset. We did everything you're supposed to do for puncture wounds and headed out to have a good dinner. I left for home around 9:30 and was home by 10:15 - this speedy side-effect of the price of gasoline continues, and there was hardly anyone on the expressway.

I woke up early this morning with my hand in some pain. I managed to sleep a few more hours and then got up and got ready to go to church to sing. However, my index finger joint where it joins to my hand was twice it's normal size, bright pink, and hot and painful to the touch. I took a photo of it, but it's too gross to put on the blog (I know, you're thanking me - well, you're welcome).

Crap.

Through my insurance we have a program called Nurseline, where you can talk to a registered nurse 24/7, so I thought it would be a good plan to call, because I didn't want to go to urgent care and sit around and wait if what was going on was normal. It wasn't :-(

She asked me a short series of questions and promptly told me that I needed to go to urgent care and be seen by a physician within the next three hours. Go to Urgent Care. Go Directly to Urgent Care. Do NOT Pass Go. Do NOT Collect Two Hundred Dollars! Wow - I didn't really think it was major, but she was quite insistent, so I pulled on some clothes (not easy when you have a major digit out of commission) and went over to urgent care.

So now, about three and half hours later, I'm home. Missed church. Didn't sing. Got a shot in the ass for my pains and a prescription. Did you know that cat bites to the hand are very serious? Yeah, me neither. The doctor took one look at my hand and said that had I waited 5 or 6 hours longer, the infection would have spread halfway up my hand by that time. As it was, it had spread since this morning already.

I got a shot in the ass of a very strong antibiotic (which didn't hurt nearly as much as my hand and finger do) that will hopefully stop whatever's going on dead in its tracks, and a prescription for a second very strong antibiotic that I'm to take Without Fail for 10 days. He said that more than once. It's one that will make me photo sensitive, so no Celtic Fest at Gaelic Park for me today :-( Bummer. I'm also required to see a physician again on Wednesday - and the doctor said that if I could not get in to see my own doctor that I was to call him and he would see me Wednesday without fail - something about the structure of the fascia of the hand and infection getting in underneath it . . . I don't know - it sounded gross and he scared me enough that one way or another I'll go on Wednesday.

So, after picking up the prescription at Walgreen's and getting some comfort food (OK - Kraft Dinner - I know, it's gross, but who doesn't like mac & cheese when they feel sorry for themselves?), I'm home. Oh - did I mention that I'm left-handed? I can't hold a pen. I can't knit. I can't spin. The Bears are losing to Tampa Bay, and typing without my left index finger is quite challenging, to say the least. Plus, it hurts like hell and if I don't keep it elevated, it throbs. Dammit. Apparently if you get bit on the arm the body is usually quite able to fight infection easily - but according to Dr. Singh, the hand is the worst place to be bitten by a cat.

Who knew? Live and learn - I won't be picking up any cats any time soon - scratch that (pardon the pun) - I won't be picking up any cats at all. Ever.